While the original Avengers still plays regularly on British TV, the updated New Avengers, made just seven years after the original shows, has been left buried in TV history – until now, with all the episodes from series one and two released in an 8-DVD box set.
So, why has the New Avengers failed to achieve the reputation of its predecessor? Well, much of it is to do with era I’d say. The original series has become an icon of the sixties – the girls, the fashion, the cars and above all, the quirky (sometimes surreal) storylines about Steed, his assistant and the rather ambiguous government organisation they worked for, latterly run by the very bizarre "Mother". It was a blend of comedy, drama and period that worked then and still works for viewers today.
And some of the factors that made that series so great still show up in the New Avengers. There’s Steed, still dapper in suit and (lethal) bowler, his female assistant, this time Purdey, played by the high-kicking Joanna Lumley, not to mention a great Laurie Johnson theme, writing by Brian Clemens and of course, the fast cars and day-to-day battles with rival spies and criminal organisations.
But things are different. It’s no longer the sixties, the clothes have changed, the cars have changed (E-Type to XJS) and the mood of the show has changed to something a little more straight-faced. Although there are some comic moments, this is very much a 70s crime show and far more in line with (for example) The Professionals than the 60s version of the show. And there’s Gambit – possibly brought in because Steed no longer had the "legs" to chase people around (that’s the impression you get), but just a little surplus in many episodes. Mind you, he could certainly shake a coffee bean.
All of this means you really need to come at the New Avengers without comparing it to The Avengers. There’s still plenty of surreal plot lines to get your teeth into (which other programme would have a plot about a planeload of nazis crash landing onto a remote Scottish island with Hitler in the cargo), but this time, it’s taken a little more seriously. But perhaps that was just a reflection of the Cold War at the time – or because some of the companies backing the show were outside the UK, so there had to be a reduction in some of wacky British humour.
However, if you enjoyed The Professionals and the original Avengers, this is certainly one to pick up. But if 70s shows turn you off, this might be an Avengers too far.
Extras on the DVD:
Commentary by Gareth Hunt and writer Brian Clemens on The Eagle’s Nest
Commentary by Gareth Hunt and writer Brian Clemens on Dead Men Are Dangerous